My Digital Backup Strategy

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 06:05 PM with 0 comments

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Do you know where your files are?

You know, all of those bits and bytes that make up video of your baby’s first steps, PDF files of your tax returns, those songs from high school you can’t get out of your head. You know... your life!

As our lives become more and more digital, there is more involved in managing those files – our digital assets – so we know what and where they are, and more importantly they don’t get lost forever. In other words, they need to be backed up.

Been There, Lost That

Over the years I have had my fair share of lost data, files, information – whatever you prefer to call it. From misplacing floppy discs to hard drive crashes to not being able to restore deleted files, there are many things I have lost in part or whole. In some cases there were copies of the files elsewhere, whether on another computer, server or in paper form. And in some cases there were not.

From my own experiences and observing and helping others who have lost data and files over the years, I have evolved my backup strategy. This strategy has also morphed based on my computer usage coupled with advances in technology.

Backups from Micro to Macro

I will now share with you my current backup strategy which I have been using for several years now. I will start with the “micro” or day-to-day elements, traveling to the “macro” or more involved.

Keeper VaultKeeper is a secure app and service I have used on a daily basis for years, yet I am surprised I haven’t written about it before… no time like the present I guess.

Keeper has its roots in secure password management, and that is when I started using it several years ago. Where we don’t often think of logins and passwords as something to backup, try losing some sticky notes or that unprotected spreadsheet of logins and see what happens.

I went with Keeper for 2 reasons. First, only the end user can access their data, not even the Keeper staff. You can read more on the nuts and bolts of how Keeper works here. In short, it’s very secure and I like that. The second reason is I met Keeper’s founder, Darren Guccione, years ago at a tech networking event as he and Keeper are based in Chicago. I met someone passionate about technology, security and consumer usability, and I was sold on his solution to all of them.

Recently Keeper began offering file storage, where you can get space to store files through their digital vault. I began using it but nowhere as I should. I have stored things like a picture of my AAA card, so in case I lose it or am not carrying it on me I can retrieve it on my mobile device, as well as through a Web browser or client program on a PC or Mac – giving me access to these files and information virtually anywhere. You can get a free trial of Keeper or pay US$30 for a year of full features. For me, Keeper is some of the best money I spend on technology.

Mozy Pro Online Backup – I don’t keep a lot of files on my computer, something I’ll get into more later. But I do have some files on it, what I call my “active” files – ones I have recently worked on in some form or another. To ensure these files are always backed up and nothing is lost, I use online backup.

Mozy Pro is an online backup service from data storage giant EMC which I have used for years going back to when I had my own Web consulting business. Mozy has a consumer version called Mozy Home in addition to Pro, but I am only referring to Pro here as that is the only one I am using. I get 20 GB of file backup space for around US$150 per year, and you can pay more or less for more or less space.

With online backup, I can backup files continuously while my Mac (or a PC) is on as a background task. This is convenient as I don’t have to think about it. If I do work on a number of files at once, I can choose to run a manual backup to ensure those files are backed-up and I don’t lose my changes.

Of course the key to any backup is that you can restore a file or files from it. Mozy Pro allows you to do that on an individual or multiple file level. As well, it can give you a bulk Zip file of all files – I know this first hand as once I hosed my new PC’s hard drive when I tried to encrypt it, and had I not done backups before the encryption to Mozy Pro I would have lost all of the files.

Select Files to Protected Portable Drive – I keep a WD Passport hard drive with password –protection on hand to make periodical, manual backups. This drive is small in size but very convenient to work with. The version I have is 500 GB (or half a terabyte) but now you can get them with up to 3 TB (terabytes) for a little over US$100. As convenient as the size is that I can password-protect the drive so any local backups are secured.

Off-Site Networked Drive Backups – Earlier I mentioned I only keep so many files on my computer. This is because I have a NAS, or networked attached storage (NAS), drive at my home. This is my home server, where I store files as well as photos and music and any other file types I have and can access this password-protected drive on my home network. As this is where the majority of my files are, it’s needless to say they need to be backed up.

The backup process for my NAS drive is similar to the previous step, where I back it up to hard drives, but with a few twists. I use a Windows PC to run these backups using a program called Robocopy which comes with Windows. It allows me to make a file-by-file mirror of my NAS drive onto the external portable hard drives I have. Following this mirror backup, these drives are then secured in separate, off-site locations under lock and key and additional security. Where I don’t want to say where exactly they are stored, one location may be a bank safe deposit box. Maybe.

For these backups, I typically do them monthly, or more often if I add more files to the NAS drive, like family photos. I will do one backup at a time, namely so that one of the backup drives is always secured in the event of some form of loss or disaster, such as a roof leak and subsequent home flooding, while in the process of performing a backup. After performing one backup and securing it, I will then strive to do the other one within a week of the first.

Deconstructing Backups

Backups are only as good as they are current or accurate, and that you are able to restore from them. This is why I use a variety of backup methods to minimize and reduce potential errors.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on my digital backup strategy, how it compares to yours, or if it has inspired you to create a process of your own. Please share this in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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